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Recommended reading for practice managers

27 March 2009

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MA DipEd DipTM

Managing Director
4 Health Ltd

Wendy is managing director of 4 Health Ltd, a training and development consultancy firm based in the West Midlands. She is an organisational development specialist and architect of learning organisations, and has authored several books and publications on healthcare development

The Secrets of Successful Team Management: How to Lead a Team to Innovation, Creativity and Success

By Michael West

Duncan Baird Publishers, 2004

Upon opening The Secrets of Successful Team Management, the first thing that strikes you is how colourful and attractive it is – the first indication that this is not the average dry and dull management book, but something really different.

In a very practical way, author Michael West, Professor of Organisational Psychology at Aston Business School in Birmingham, explores the purpose and benefits of teamworking and some accessible techniques for building and improving teams in small organisations.

Throughout the book are “work solutions” – these are straightforward exercises the most inexperienced manager could complete with their teams and get something really positive from.

The early part of the book explores the concept of teamwork, giving some useful advice on testing whether work is suitable for a team or individuals working in parallel. A simple checklist enables a manager to assess team competencies and help to identify areas that need to be worked on.

The next set of chapters addresses some of the skills a team leader may need to develop. This includes an outline for a time management journal, advice on developing self-awareness and insight into personal behaviours, dealing with feedback and communicating positively to influence and persuade others.

The middle section of the book gives a straightforward approach to teambuilding, addressing ground rules for a team, the importance of clarifying roles and creating a team identity.

The next group of chapters examines team processes and is designed to help managers review the way they conduct meetings, set objectives, complete stakeholder analysis and manage risk. I loved this section of the book because it deals with the stuff most managers assume they do but never really examine.

The author, who has written extensively on management, motivation and creativity, outlines a technique called “stepladder debating”, which is a simple but effective way of involving all team members in discussion and solving problems in a nonthreatening way.

One chapter deals with the sort of problems commonly experienced when teams are in trouble: conflict, difficult people, “group think” and something Michael West refers to as “social loafing”. This refers to team members who lack commitment “hiding” in a team and evading performance monitoring. It describes a simple approach for dealing with such defensive behaviours.

The final chapter examines teams within organisations, and would help managers implement a plan for introducing more effective teamworking.

The Secrets of Successful Team Management is well written, has a strong theoretical basis but is nonetheless accessible to the most inexperienced manager.

It is particularly well suited to general practice teams, since many of the work solutions could be tackled in a small team meeting and involve everyone. In short, this book would make a great addition to a practice manager’s bookshelf!

How to Succeed as a Leader

Edited by Ruth Chambers, Kay Mohanna, Peter Spurgeon and David Wall

Radcliffe Publishing, 2008

How to Suceed as a Leader is written specifically for an NHS audience and is a good starting point for anyone with leadership and management responsibilities as part of their role.

Taking a practical approach, with a lack of management jargon, it’s an enjoyable read, which recognises that a common problem for NHS management has been too little investment in the training and development of its leaders.

It exposes the common mistake many trusts and practices make in the presumption that excellent practitioners and specialists make good leaders and managers. By assuming a level of competence, organisations often set new managers and leaders up to fail. The book offers a logical approach to development and is written by a mixture of clinical practitioners, managers and academics who all have extensive experience in developing and supporting leaders in healthcare settings.

Offering a step-by-step exploration of leadership, it covers everything from communication, personal effectiveness, competencies, team leadership and change management. It helps the reader understand the context of leadership and uses some useful models to explore the practical steps to becoming a good leader. It also makes the direct link between effective leadership and a smoothly functioning organisation – regardless of its size or complexity.

Each chapter contains a set of top tips that summarises the key learning points and highlights simple things leaders and managers can do to gain confidence. It also contains some useful references to related documents and publications, enabling the reader to broaden their understanding of the topics discussed.

This book is not only suitable for practice managers, but may also be useful as a resource in the practice, as GPs, nurses and managers could all find something of value in it.

A few chapters in particular deserve a mention. The third chapter, “What are your learning needs?”, is by GP Ruth Chambers, who is also the director of Postgraduate GP education at the workforce deanery of NHS West Midlands Strategic Health Authority (SHA). This chapter is useful because it describes a simple way to identify what it is that you don’t know or what you would like to improve. It suggests a range of self-assessment exercises using tools that practitioners and managers would already be familiar with.

A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis is a simple but effective way of identifying your development needs as a manager. It also suggests a simple 360-degree feedback exercise that can be conducted with colleagues and members of staff to gain more objective feedback about skills and capabilities.

A further chapter looks at leadership competencies for self-assessment. It would be relatively easy for a practice manager to do this using practice management competencies or the relevant elements of the NHS Leadership Qualities Framework.

Chapter six, “Leading the way as a good employer” (also by Ruth Chambers), is a practical chapter for general practices as it reflects some of the challenges that independent contractors face with smaller teams, in which everyone’s contribution and commitment is crucial to an effective organisation.

Chapter 12, “Being a leader through times of change”, by Bev Norton, a senior manager in primary care development for West Midlands SHA, contains a useful model of how people respond to change emotionally and behaviorally, which would prove useful in understanding the resistance and fear that is often displayed during times of change.

To summarise, this is not an onerous read and the little cartoons peppered throughout are a nice diversion, particularly for those visual learners.